One of the major changes noted in our 2010-2020 Retail Trends presentation is the continued growth of “social networks” as a means of sharing information between individuals and businesses. What is this? It’s just all the information and content that ordinary people create using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. For example, what you’re reading right now is just social media.
The implications for marketers are that it is rapidly becoming complex and increasingly replacing mainstream media as a reliable source of information about products, services and brands. Its viral nature and its ability to travel and spread through social networks make it an attractive marketing tool.
As the world’s largest retailers try to define what social media means to them and their marketing efforts, we can understand what a small independent retailer needs to feel. All the traditional forms of media they have used and trusted in the past are becoming less and less effective. The problem is that in many cases independent retailers do not have a definite strategy to move away from traditional advertising tools and move to a social platform.
However, as we note in the presentation, the transition can be implemented, and it is not as expensive and not as scary as one might imagine. The key lies in knowing the answers to a few common questions, such as:
- What are the main points of connecting social networking strategies for independent retail businesses? Think of your campaign as a table with legs on it. Once they are created, it’s pretty easy to add extra elements to your strategy. I found it a good start to have a reliable website connected to several excellent social and professional networks. It will bring your message to your key consumer segments.
- What information/content do you need to share to add value to your audience and generate interest in your business? The buzzword is “content is the king.” You have to develop content, even small content that people like and like. We’re not all Ernest Hemingway either, and there are alternatives to writing our own content.
- What are the rules for participation? There are some absolutely accepted standards, signs of attention and convention that are important to understand in order to succeed. Failure to do so can quickly harm you. If you know these basic rules, you can avoid the pitfalls. Perhaps more importantly, you should listen, not talk. Remember, it’s not a show, it’s a conversation. And you can’t start a conversation like someone’s drunk uncle on a family holiday. Listen to the opportunities to help and contribute as needed. You are quickly considered a respected source of information.
- What management efforts are needed to support the campaign? In fact, very little. There are a few important things you need to do to constantly maintain and expand your network. In addition to what is needed, you can invest as much work in your program as you want. The great thing is the sense of connection you get with your marketing and the immediate feedback (good and bad) you get.
- How much does it cost? Surprisingly little. Of course, there are big retailers who spend millions on their campaigns, but for independent companies it doesn’t have to be costly. Your main expenses are likely to be related to your website, which I strongly recommend NOT to create yourself.
Thus, with the right support and the right advice, the transition to social networks should not frighten independent retailers. By understanding the basic requirements of your program, listening and delivering the content that your audience wants, any retailer can take the right path to building a powerful social marketing system.
Doug Stevens is president of Retail Prophet Consulting. Retail Prophet is a promising consulting company specializing in working with independent retailers.